Look for Audience before Story

ESPN broadcasting from the Fanzone at Georgia vs. Alabama SEC Championship game at the Georgia World Congress Center. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 2500, Ä/5.6, 1/80]

When you first begin your journey into becoming a storyteller, you start with a story. When I teach Intro to Photojournalism at the University of Georgia, the students find something that interests them.

I started my career professionally at East Carolina University, where the photo staff of the newspaper was paid to do stories. After college, I went on to the Hickory Daily Record, where I focused on finding stories.

I continued looking for stories as I went to work for The Commission Magazine and then to Georgia Tech, working in communications.

Greg Thompson, Director of Corporate Communications, Chick-fil-A [NIKON D5, 85.0 mm f/1.8, ISO 100, Ä/1.8, 1/30]

In 2008 Greg Thompson, Director of Corporate Communications, Chick-fil-A, proposed a crazy idea: I work with his team a couple of days a week where I sit in on meetings and listen. He and I would get together and discuss my thoughts, and if I thought the timing was good, I would speak in the discussions to give some of my opinions.

Greg said let’s evaluate this after six months. Well, now, ten years later, we are doing the same thing.  I have learned a lot in those years and helped them immensely with visual communication and storytelling. 

Greg taught me a great deal about the ins and outs of strategy. Over the years, I discovered that I had a gift for strategy, and Greg helped me understand how to navigate some of the politics of working with an organization.

Biggest TakeAway from Chick-fil-A

Greg led the team not to focus on the content but on the audience. The answers to better storytelling were in better questions.

Why is this content essential to the audience? In case you haven’t noticed, when I started working with Chick-fil-A in 2008, they celebrated 2-Billion in sales. This past December, they celebrated 10 Billion in sales. That is a 500% increase.

This commercial from a few years ago for UPS sums up it pretty well from my perspective.

Try communicating with an audience so busy they have no time for interruptions.

In this environment, you should be very aware of your audience. We worked with departments helping them understand why the audience doesn’t have time for their information and also helping the audience get information that would allow the business to run more efficiently.

I have many friends and organizations that want people to take notice of something important to them. I have learned these past ten years with the help of Greg Thompson and his team that understanding your audience helps you know how to tell a story so that it is relevant to the audience.

James Dockery and Stanley Leary, behind the camera, demonstrate to the students how to do an interview with Evelyn Stone’s help with some Jon doing the translation at the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Lima, Peru. [X-E3, XF18-55mm Ä/2.8-4 R LM OIS, ISO 4000, Ä/4.5, 1/100, Focal Length = 27]

Servant First – A Servant of the Heart

Here is my tip for those who want to be successful. It would help if you were focused on making others successful, not yourself. 

I believe there are two types of stories – 1) Entertainment Only & 2) Call to Action Stories.

Most movies and TV shows are great stories that move us to laughter and tears. They carry our hearts and souls. They bring out emotions in our bodies.

The Call to Action Stories do the same thing, but they are told with the purpose of getting the audience to be involved in some way.

Advertising is a Call to Action. Non-profits use storytelling as a call to action to get their audience involved in their mission.

The best storyteller for nonprofits is the person who cares so much for the subject and the audience they see how using a story to connect the two is a way that serves them both. The audience sees a way that they can use their gifts to help an audience in need of them. The subject is uplifted and is also able to serve the audience. 

When storytelling is done at it’s very best the audience is understood and helps in the shaping of how the subject’s story is told so that a partnership is formed where they can serve one another.

Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 

 Philippians 2:4

Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

Galatians 6:2

And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works. 

Hebrews 10:24

Before you tell a story you have to find the story

[Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100]

This is Amar, and his father is the Imam in a Mosque we visited in the Balkans. This is all part of our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop that I am helping lead in the Balkans, which is part of Eastern Europe.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/240]

This is our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop of 12 participants, four instructors, and one administrative staff.

We are finding stories where global workers are helping through education the people of the Balkans.

Hopefully, next week I can show you some of the finished projects.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5, 1/80]

Each day we have a couple of hours of class time teaching some of the basics the students need to do before they go out.

Pat Davison, one of the instructors, is talking to the workshop participants about how to conduct a pre-interview where you find the storyline that will later help you with the questions that will make up the video interview.

[Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5, 1/100]

James Dockery is one of the other instructors in our Storytellers Abroad Multimedia Workshop that we are doing in the Balkans. James was photographing the kids, and I was off to the side and pulled my camera up, and they all quickly posed.

No matter where we go, we have our cameras and are learning about the culture. Children quickly run to be in the photos and let us get to know them.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 1250, ƒ/1.4, 1/100]

We walked to the square in the town at night, and everyone was out socializing and drinking their macchiatos.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/400]

This is the Macchiato I was drinking at an Italian restaurant in the Balkans. A Caffé Macchiato or Espresso Macchiato is a shot or two of espresso, with just a small amount of steamed milk that “marks” the espresso, though in some regions, the steamed milk comes first, and the espresso makes the mark.

This is a photo from last year’s workshop in Togo, West Africa. This is what I will demonstrate this morning for the class. I will be showing them how to conduct an interview where they have a subject and a translator.

The very first night we were in the Balkans, we sat down and explained how they were to spend time getting to know their subject the next day. They were to develop a list of questions to help tell their subject’s story.

Today they will conduct those formal interviews, which will be the storyline for the multimedia package.

Stay tuned for more experiences from the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in the Balkans this week and next week.

Can you tell me what you do?

Photo by Dennis Fahringer

While we do lectures, we are careful to show examples. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1100, ƒ/4, 1/100]

If I were to ask you what you do or what does your company do what is your answer? Maybe you start to stumble around trying to find words and even say things like “Well …”

One of the greatest struggles to communicate what you do or what your company does is that words alone often do not do justice to what you do. No matter how well you craft your words it still can fall short. Too often using words alone takes too long and you lose your audience.

Visual content reaches an individual’s brain in a faster and more understandable way than textual information. Or, more accurately, a person’s brain is hardwired to recognize and make sense of visual information more efficiently, which is useful considering that 90 percent of all information that comes to the brain is visual.

We have discovered that showing students the setup and how to do an interview working with a translator improved the results for students. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1800, ƒ/8, 1/100]

Storytelling tactics focus on different functions of the brain related to understanding and perception. The brain processes images 60 times faster than text, and 92 percent of consumers want brands to create stories around ads. Because of this, marketers should be delivering linear content with clear narratives and using images to tell their stories.

I work with clients by listening to them and asking lots of questions to help pull out the most compelling storyline that will engage customers to pay attention to what they do. I teach my clients the seven elements they need in their story and then capture that in a visual storyline to build their brand.

A great example of how I did this was with a professor at Georgia Tech. We played basketball together during our lunch breaks. While standing on the sideline waiting for the next game I was just asking what he was working on.

He was creating a bomb detector for about $30. He had presented this a few times but no one was willing to give him a grant. I asked if he would like my help. The solution was simple. By changing his visuals with his story then presented at the next conference and got a $1 million dollar grant.

Size of experimental microneedle array is shown by its placement on the researcher’s finger. There are 400 needles in the array. “Microneedles” much thinner than the diameter of a human hair could be the basis for a new drug delivery technique able to administer small quantities of high-potency medications through the skin without causing pain.

I really do believe that “Seeing is believing” for most of the population. It leads to a way of teaching that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.

Give me a call and let me help capture your story in a visual way so that you too can make what you do understandable to your potential customers.

I also teach this to people in workshops. This summer I taught a workshop in Nicaragua and in Togo, West Africa. In Nicaragua James Dockery, ESPN Video Editor and Jeff Raymond, Director of Visual Communications for ABWE led 9 students through the process of visual storytelling. In Togo, West Africa professor Patrick Davison, UNC School of Media/Journalism worked with Jeff and I in leading 10 students through the same process.

Here are two examples of storytelling done by those students in just one week.


Give me a call if you want me to help you in telling your story or to help teach your team how to do visual storytelling to build your brand.

Jeremies Journey

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 160, ƒ/8, 1/100

Storytellers Abroad participant Cy Hayden is working with Jeremie, his subject, by recording a voice-over. Jeremie did his own voice-over. Jeremie was more comfortable answering the questions in French and then having us translate them into English.  Jeremie, who is a Chaplin at the Hopital Baptiste Biblique and a local pastor in Togo. Jeremie almost lost his pregnant wife due to a coma because of a sickle cell crisis. His son then developed hydrocephalus a month after his birth. Through multiple miracles, God healed both of them.

We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop from October 29 to November 5. The deadline to apply is August 30, 2016.

Click here to learn more. Then, get your money in now to hold your spot.

Teaching Women Reaching Togo – Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop

photo by Jeff Raymond

A week ago today, I was stuck in the Accra, Ghana airport, waiting for the Delta Airlines computer system to get back online so that we could return home after a week in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa.

It was a good week of capturing stories with the help of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism missionaries. We were staying at the Hospital Baptiste Biblique guest housing while working on stories that have all resulted from the hospital.

Jeff Raymond organized the Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop with Pat Division’s and myself’s help.

Over the next few weeks, I will share some of the stories done by the students. Today I want to share what Hannah Strayer captured.

Hannah Strayer captures her story. [Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/640]

Hannah’s story is just below here. Look at what she captured in just a week while in Togo.

Under the teaching of ABWE missionary Rebekah Poteat, Abra Sakpa has been learning Bible study methods and is using them to teach between 20-25 women about the Bible. Her vision in learning and teaching the Bible is that she might teach other women to teach women so that the farthest corners of Togo might be reached with the Gospel.

We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop from October 29 to November 5. The deadline to apply is August 30, 2016. Click here to learn more.

Storytellers Abroad to Togo West Africa is wrapping up

Hannah Teramura is working on a voice-over for her video. The man doing the voice-over is a Ghanaian who lives in Tsiko, Togo, and works with the Hospital Baptiste Biblique. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5600, ƒ/8, 1/100]

What a week this has been. I am now flying back to Atlanta through JFK airport in New York. By the way, we had around a four-hour delay. Not sure right now which flight I will take to get back to Atlanta. It appears I will miss the scheduled flight. It was delayed, but not as much as my flight.

During this week with Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop, I have worked with Pat Davison and Jeff Raymond as we led ten students through their stories.

Cy Hayden, another one of the students, interviewed his subject with the help of Mrs. Gail on translating from French to English. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/125]

Each student would do a pre-interview with their subject and then a sit-down interview. Then, after we reviewed it most, everyone would do a follow-up interview to help fill in the holes in the storyline.

Pat Davison works here with Liz Ortiz on the left and Keziah Khoo. Each student spent much time with Pat going over their stories. I also met with each student. We would help by helping them through the storyline process and helping them understand how to use b-roll more effectively to tell their stories. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/125]

Each of the students then spent a lot of time massaging their stories in Adobe Premier.

Stacey Schuett [left] and Hannah Saxe [right] work hard in the classroom on their projects. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art,  ISO 1000, ƒ/1.4, 1/125]

One of the students was Stacey Schuett, who had been in the Atlanta Ballet and even lived near me during that time in Roswell, GA. We believe that my family saw her dancing in the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker when she was in Atlanta.

That was a cool thing to discover and made the world seem that much smaller.

Another surprise was Wilson, on the left, and his friend came to listen to us several times. They are local and part of the YWAM base there. Wilson had been to Kona, Hawaii, and we had a lot of friends in common. Keziah, another student, had taken the same film classes in Kona but at different times. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 8000, ƒ/5.6, 1/125]

The students stopped on Saturday night, and we showed our stories in whatever stage they were in the missionaries and to the subjects before we left the next day.

Everyone gathered who was in the stories or part of the Baptist Hospital in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa, to see our progress. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 7200, ƒ/4, 1/100]

Since we started doing this workshop in 2014 with our first workshop in Lisbon, Portugal, two students have decided to do this as a full-time career in missions. We have had a few others who have made more trips to tell missions stories using multimedia. Some of them are exploring this as a full-time career as well.

Here is our team. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200]

Check out Storytellers Abroad for our trip next year. We are going to Lisbon, Portugal, and will have the date posted soon.

If you want to do this sooner, you can still join me in Honduras for a similar workshop. Here is that link.

Words of Encouragement – Be strong and courageous

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 3600, ƒ/8, 1/100

Our Storytellers Abroad workshop was feeling worn out and stressed yesterday. Everyone, including the instructors, was learning new things and dealing with the difficulties of living in the 3rd World Country of Togo, West Africa.

We could not just jump in a car and type in the address we wanted to go to in our GPS as we would back in the USA.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2800, ƒ/4, 1/100

Pat Davison was added to our team when James Dockery could not come on this trip. Pat has shown us a few tricks that have made my life easier and helped to improve my workflow with Adobe Premier. Pat also taught us many other ways to help tell a story using visuals than I have been using.

We knew from the students’ projects that we wanted to raise the bar a little higher. So, during this trip, we all worked harder to use new techniques in teaching the content to get the students to get better quality b-roll better.

We taught the many different ways they could use their tripods to steady their cameras. As a result, the b-roll got much better.

Since more students were shooting more videos than in the past, the time to do this versus still photos takes more time. More time when you are already in a 3rd World Country and dealing with the frustrations of everything taking longer put all of us into a stress overload.

Michael Cheatham, chief surgeon at Orlando health and who coordinated the Orlando shooting medical response, is here with us in Togo working at the Hospital Bible Baptist. He led our devotional yesterday, and his words for us were just what we needed.

He shared how his pastor friend sent him the morning of the shooting this bible verse:

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.

1 Chronicles 28:20

Hearing how his team needed encouragement and God was with you was so comforting. So today, we will share the storied with the community we have been working on since Sunday. We are still feeling the stress and hope by our time tonight that, most of the students will feel a sense of peace with their projects.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 800, ƒ/9, 1/200

We are looking forward to sharing the stories today. Now wherever the project is tonight, we will show it, so it is a work in progress. Next week the students will add a few finishing touches, and then we will share them with the world. Stay tuned.

Do You Know Something or Understand Something?

All artwork from “Design for Teaching and Training” by LeRoy Ford

My education courses were the best classes I took for my master’s degree.

While journalists need to know their subject well, they must also understand how persons learn to make the storytelling worthwhile.

While it is essential to help people with the knowledge, it is very limiting. Knowledge is at the base of learning. The starting point is where you memorize and recall information.

When you can take the pieces and create something new, this is when you are demonstrating you understand the content. You are demonstrating comprehension, expressing ideas in new forms, and even interpreting them.

You want to get to the highest level of understanding which is an application, which is the transfer of the learning to a new situation.

Now you may think this is all common sense, but I am finding that it isn’t for many in the communications industry.

One of the most significant issues I see with professional communicators is their lack of understanding that the content of the subject matter lacks exploration. While in this drawing, you know how the audience has different ideas in the presentation, I am finding out that many communicators, when they ask questions in the storytelling process with the subject, take what the issue says at face value.

They are unaware that what the subject is talking about isn’t how they understand their words.

When I was in Nicaragua, we had to have most students go back and clarify what the subject was talking about and not assume the content. They learned how to explore the topic and, in the process, learned how important this was to help the audience understand the problem across the cultural differences.

Watch this package that Naomi Harward produced this story on Alvaro Ramirez and his wife, Erica, who are helping children with the issues of alcoholism and how it is affecting their country of Nicaragua.

What is essential is that Naomi helped you through visuals and audio to understand how alcoholism affects the entire family and community.

Another student covered the medical volunteers and what they were doing. Saying that people have medical needs isn’t enough. By clarifying what type of services they provided, the audience will now understand we are talking about households with no medicine cabinet like we would in our homes here. When they buy aspirin, they don’t have the money for a bottle and buy it one tablet at a time.

Most of the students in the class were anticipating storytelling’s technical aspects as the biggest hurdle. They expected that learning how to use Adobe Premier was to be the most difficult to do.

Most realized pretty quickly that understanding a story and capturing all the elements needed for a good storyline was quite tricky. Before they could sit at their computers and start sequencing their video clips and photos, they had to have the content. The storyteller needed to be able to tell the story to the subject and ask if this was what they were saying.

There were Five Steps they had to understand about the problem to communicate to the audience.

When working for a nonprofit, the storyteller focuses on the call to action to the audience.

While teaching students storytelling, I am moving the students through all these stages of learning.

We show them all the microphones they can use for an interview. [Knowledge] We offer them how to record an interview. [Comprehension] Then, we send them to practice with each other, so they get clean audio and well-exposed video. [Application]

Once they go out into the field and do the actual interview, we review it with them. Together we talk about the issues that might exist. One that was pretty common was the wind noise. [Analysis]

After reviewing their interviews often, they go back to fix the problems. [Synthesis]

Near the end of the editing process, we ask them questions, and they evaluate their content and decide what they need to include or exclude to tell a compelling story. [Evaluation]

Now while this is what we are doing with the students to help them learn about storytelling, they are doing the same process of applying this to getting the audience engaged and understanding how they too can get involved in solving the problem of the story’s subject.

It is one thing to help people know about something and quite different to get them to understand how they need to be involved.

You need to know whether the audience knows more about the subject due to your story, or do they understand your topic and are taking action to do something about it?

Storytelling for NGOs needs to be decisive

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/500

When we need to go out and eat as a family, I often don’t care where to eat, so I ask the family where. Over the years, I have learned that it is easier to get a response if I first pick a place. After that, it is easier for people to say yes or no to that suggestion. They can then offer other advice.

However, if I ask where you want to go can be very frustrating. Too many options and the rest of the family is also tired. They don’t want to have to think about all the choices.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200

This past week along with James Dockery, editor at ESPN, and Jeff Raymond, media missionary with ABWE, we were training 11 workshop participants on Storytelling using multimedia.

We taught them the storyline here:

After the first day, we asked them a couple of questions.

  • Who is the Audience?
  • What is the problem?
  • What is the solution?
Most everyone struggled because they were not so focused and looking for those answers. Instead, they just listened to whatever the subject said to their list of questions. They didn’t understand that the purpose of asking questions during an interview is to gain insight and help clarify the storyline.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100

Direct vs. Indirect

  • Direct – (definition) aim (something) in a particular direction or a specific person.
  • Indirect – (definition) not in a direct course or path; deviating from a straight line; roundabout:
You’ll never have it if you don’t go after what you want. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. 
We were having a real problem getting each workshop participant to understand they need to take charge and that this is their project. However, by the end of the week, they were taking control. They had to do this, or their project would fall apart.
Once they could answer those basic questions, they could review all the content they had gathered and eliminate anything that didn’t answer those questions. Then they just cut out good content to keep only the great content.

Call To ACTION!!

The whole point of all the stories last week was to help those we covered to get people to help them. We were not just creating stories that had happened and were entertaining. We were telling a story to help set up a problem that the audience would help in completing the level.
Compare this CALL TO ACTION to the Storyline. You will notice they are very similar. The audience needs to know what you are asking them to do with your story. They need to know what you want them to do and how they can help.
In a nutshell, you must not only identify each of the parts but also help connect those dots. If you do this in the story and at the end of the presentation, you should have a CALL TO ACTION that asks the audience if you will help.
Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/3200
If you won’t be specific, the audience doesn’t know why they see a baby in the crib and what you are trying to say. With no ask, then you have a piece of entertainment.
In business, we call this the closing of the sale. Closing differs from standard practices such as explaining a product’s benefits or justifying an expense. Instead, it is a more artful means of persuasion.
You are successful as a storyteller for a nonprofit only if you help them by raising funds or getting people to donate their time.

Are you a Performer or a Creator?

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/250

Jeffrey Masin is a one-person band that entertains New Yorkers in the subway stations. I ran into him a few times while in NYC.

I am using Jeffrey as a point of reference because his performances are stopping folks, and they not only listen, but many of them are posting videos of him on their YouTube channels. Isn’t that what you want your work to do to make people STOP and LISTEN?

Here is a taste of his music:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iy_Pudxacps]
Here is another music performance, but this is by a band, The Queens Cartoonists. They, too, have audiences STOPPING and LISTENING.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/160

You also want to hear them, so here is a clip of them playing.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lwe02zWr94E]
It is essential to realize that they are both entertaining and very different. From a purely economic perspective, I doubt that the Queen’s Cartoonists are being tipped in the subways all that much more than Jeffrey Masin.

Just doing the simple math, you can see that there are now six verses, only one person. So for the Queen’s Cartoonists to make a similar living to Jeffrey Masin, they need to book bigger venues where they are not relying on tips. By the way, when you Google both groups, you quickly understand what appears to be happening.

The Queens Cartoonists are getting paid to do commercial work for recording and play in clubs.

photo by Jeff Raymond

Today I am a multimedia storyteller. The hats I wear look like Jeffrey Masin, the one-person band. I am the producer, camera guy, sound guy, lighting director, editor, and marketer for many projects I am working on for my clients.

They also love the sound of the six-piece band, but most of them cannot afford to hire that size band compared to hiring me. So you need to figure out expenses on top of the creative fee. The costs for six people push your price to the client beyond their budget.

But just like The Queens Cartoonists, Jeffrey Masin stops the crowds on the subways of NYC and gets their attention.

By all means, you need to learn to collaborate and work with a team to get the best product quality, but you also need to know how to do it all yourself, or you might not be working that often.

Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4000, ƒ/4, 1/60

To make music, you don’t need to play every instrument, but for the most part, those songs that resonate with people are often stories. So in this way, if you are aware of the storyline, you can, as a producer, figure out how to tell that story with your abilities.

The difference between working and begging for work is how to craft a solid storyline.

I will teach this skill this year in Nicaragua, Hawaii, and Honduras. The Honduras trip still has openings. Go here http://workshop.stanleyleary.com to learn more about how to do storytelling and do it as a one-person band because many that will hire you cannot afford the expenses of a larger band.

Gary S. Chapman is the other instructor on the Honduras trip. Gary works with NGOs and other organizations, helping them to tell stories. Gary’s clients include Delta, World Vision, Atlanta Mission, National Geographic publications,  National Geographic TV, and TOMS Shoes. Check out Gary’s marvelous work on his website http://www.garyschapman.com.

What do all these musicians above have in common with me?

We are not just creating great content; we are fully responsible for the performance and finding our audience.

What do musicians and photographers not working have in common?

I would say that the main thing I see from my perspective is that they are all calling up other groups and asking if they can join them. They are not storytellers. They are technicians wanting a storyteller to hire them to help that storyteller tell a story.

Just look at the tens of thousands of “performers” on TV shows The Voice and American Idol. The overwhelming majority of them are just technicians. They are not songwriters. That is why you might think they sound good performing another writer’s song, but you don’t see 99% of them making a living in the industry.

Almost every successful photographer, videographer, and writer I know has taken on a personal project where they produce their content and find an audience.

I can never do all that.

If you are saying this, I understand. I, too, felt that way. If you come with me to Honduras, Gary and I will walk beside you and help you navigate the deep waters of storytelling. Register today!! Come with us and learn how to become a creator of content and not just performers.

2015 Staff Photojournalist Job Requirements

Nikon D810, 24-70mm [photo by: Robin Nelson]

For those who want to find a staff job in a Newspaper, Magazine, or online outlet, the job description is a lot different these days than it was years ago.

Here are a few descriptions I pulled from job postings with the National Press Photographers Association:

  1. Candidates should excel at news, features, and sports photography. Our visual journalists are also counted on producing multimedia presentations and online slide shows.
  2. The multimedia coordinator is responsible primarily for video production and assists with other multimedia projects, including photo research, live streaming, and interactive content. In addition, the multimedia coordinator ensures that video projects produced will meet editorial and branding standards and tell compelling and distinctive stories.
  3. Candidates should have news, feature, sports, and multimedia experience and be prepared to work in a fast-paced, breaking-news environment.
  4. We are looking for an energetic, versatile, creative multimedia/visuals editor who can help us continue producing outstanding visual content for our readers!

Multimedia is technically anything that involves multiple types of content. The World Press Photo organization split this category into interactive and linear.

Linear productions give the reader guidance. However, there is only one way to experience the story. With an interactive package, the reader can decide the direction.

With either one, there needs to be visual storytelling in terms of photography and video in each.

Nikon D810, 24-70mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/7.1, 1/60 [photo by: Robin Nelson]

Here is what I am telling students and those wanting to make a career change to storytelling/photojournalism.

I believe three components [skills] are needed to be hired as a staff multimedia producer.

First, you need to be able to write. You need to be able to capture the story in a written form. Writing is necessary because you must provide written captions many times, and today you may be putting the package together all by yourself.

Second, you need to have a good command of photography skills to capture the visual story as stills. You need to master your camera not just to get well-exposed images but use the creative tools of aperture, shutter speed, and light to tell a story more effectively. You need to know how to use artificial light, and I highly recommend learning how to use strobes off the camera.

Third, you need to master capturing motion and sound. Understanding that in most multimedia linear projects, the sound will drive the project, you must know how to capture and use it to help lead the audience through the story. Finally, it would help if you mastered post-production software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier.

Your understanding of what makes a good story and how to find stories will be what is most valued by your employers.

I suggest taking journalism writing and photojournalism courses before diving into multimedia post productions skills. This background will take more than just taking the classes back to back. You must produce at the highest level showing you have mastered these skills.

Your portfolio will be more important than your degree. Those with solid portfolios get the jobs. Many people without a college degree had jobs, while those with a college degree didn’t.

With a portfolio being essential, your degree is what can also make you more valuable, especially if your degree is in a subject that helps make you an expert in that subject. For example, Sebastião Salgado has a doctorate in economics, and Eugene Richards has a degree in social work. These photographers built their professions on their expertise in the subjects they cover.

As you can see, this is a lot to master, so don’t quit your day job before you have a portfolio that shows you can tell stories using multimedia.

Cross Culture experience is similar to a night at the Opera.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/20

Here is a photo of my wife Dorie, a 1991 graduate of The Citadel and opera stand-out Morris Robinson. We were able to go backstage after seeing Rigoletto due to an invitation by Morris and meet some of the cast.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/25

Here Dorie is with Todd Thomas, who played the lead role of Rigoletto.

The opera Rigoletto was sung entirely in Italian with subtitles in English above the stage. I quickly realized that the opera was similar to my overseas coverages when working in a language I did not speak.

The first few minutes are difficult because I am not quite getting the story due to the translation taking a while.

You find yourself relying more and more on the acting and the music to help bring you into the moment’s mood. However, I also rely heavily on body language and visual cues when I am shooting overseas.

When people look at my photos, the photos don’t have audio or text for the most part. So if the opera relied heavily on the words to tell the story, I was more or less not getting it very well. Hard to read subtitles and pay attention to the actions simultaneously.

Opera helped remind me of what words and pictures need each other. The visuals will often do a much better job telling the story; other times, the words must carry the heavy load of the storytelling.

Neither one alone did a great job without the other.

I recommend going to an opera for visual storytellers, especially if you don’t know the language. It forces you to see how much visuals can do, the limits, and how important words are to the complete package.